My son is learning how to swim. After a few years of being tentative around the water, he suddenly loves it — grinning throughout every minute of the splashing and kicking and flailing and sputtering that inevitably mark the early days of swimming. He hasn’t figured out the difference between a jump and a belly flop yet, and he earnestly looks up for approval every time he slams his stomach onto the water. I try to smile encouragingly when it happens, and immediately brace myself for him to do it again. He “floats,” if only for a few seconds before the teacher scoops his legs up using one of those styrofoamy noodle things. And when he gets out, we talk in detail about how it feels to float, wondering if it’s how astronauts feel when they’re walking on the moon. When he watches the adults gliding through the water a few lanes over, his eyes glimmer. “I’m going to swim like that someday,” he says confidently. “You sure will,” I reply.
Eagerly strapping on his little neon green goggles, my son is intoxicated by the thrill of learning something new…of getting a little bit better and a tad bit more confident and notably stronger every single day. I covered the idea of learning new information a few weeks ago in a post called “Girl Meets Cheese,” but I think it’s worthwhile to think about learning new skills too. When was the last time you learned how to DO something new? Something totally brand new — like walking or talking or swimming or playing the guitar or riding a unicycle? As we get older, it feels like our opportunities to learn how to do new things diminish; but in reality, the only things that diminish are our willingness to fail and our perceived ability to learn new things and our bandwidth to make time for them. The new things can be small — like how to bake bread with quinoa flour (something I’m going to try to learn this weekend), or big — like how to code (which I’d love to learn). And the little things matter just as much as the big things…I’d even dare to say they might help keep us young.
When I think about the things I’d like to learn how to do, here’s a quick and rough laundry list:
- Learn to code
- Learn to speak conversational French
- Learn to paint with acrylics
- Learn to skateboard
- Learn to ride a tandem bicycle
- Learn to swim the butterfly
- Learn to do the whole ashtanga primary series by memory
- Learn to coach other people
- Learn to kitesurf
- Learn to bake bread with quinoa flour (never hurts to put something on the list that you are likely to be able to check off soon!)
What’s on your bucket list to learn in the future? And what’s the last thing you’re proud you DID learn?
P.S. If you read this post in hopes of getting a swim workout to try, here’s one I posted a few months ago!
I wrote a post last month about laughter — and specifically, how kids laugh hundreds of time every day, but somehow grow into 40-yr-olds who can count their daily giggles on one hand. My kids teach me this simple lesson — laugh more — every single day. Actually, I think that kids are full of wisdom — innate, untouched, beautifully naive, human wisdom — that can help us be better, more real, and more well grown-ups. Here are a few of my favorite bits of wisdom from the wee ones:
Believe that people are good until they do something that makes you feel otherwise. And then be open to believing they are good again.
Seek happiness for the people you love.
It’s OK to ask “why” 5+ times in a row.
Running is faster than walking.
If you’re scared, tell someone.
It feels amazing to learn new stuff.
Sleep…or you’ll be cranky.
Huge, long, wraparound hugs feel amazing.
All art is beautiful.
How about you? What life lessons have you learned from a child, and why do you think we lose sight of the basics as we get older?
photo by quinn.anya, via flickr creative commons
Some friends invited us to join them for a special event at the San Francisco Cheese School last night: a Wisconsin versus California face-off (IRRESISTABLE). There were four rounds (all paired with beer, of course), and each one included two pieces of cheese – one from Wisconsin and one from California. It was up to us – a mighty crowd of 26 – to decide which state produces the very best cheese.
The cheese was totally delicious…but what I want to note in this post (since waxing poetic about cheese and beer is a weird thing to do on blog about well-being) is how amazing it was to LEARN ABOUT SOMETHING NEW. As grown ups (well, at least in my experience as a grown up), it’s so easy to get stuck in the ruts of daily life and forget that there are whole worlds out there waiting to be discovered. Last night we learned about a world in which people spend a lifetime perfecting recipes and adjusting temperatures and caring for their herds…a world in which a Wisconsin cheesemaker only goes into his cave NAKED for fear of contaminating the aging cheese…and a world where a guy who believed in the power of cooperative grocery stores grew into a famous cheese dude.
Absent of phones and computers, and surrounded by tastes, smells and sounds that kept us in the moment, my brains was able to focus last night, and I settled into the cheesemonger’s rich stories the way I remember sinking into the chapter books my parents used to read…and the way my own kids settle into the stories we read today. This event was a great reminder of the value of shifting away from our normal rhythms and the power of opening our minds to new and foreign ideas. Just as we need to mix up our physical workouts, we need to mix up what we put into our brains….and how it gets there. As someone who finds the physical challenges more natural to take on than the mental ones, this was two hours well spent. I left with an inspired mind…and yes…a full tummy too.
And for the record, according to my palate, Wisconsin won. Here were my favorite cheeses in each flight:
- Bleu Mont Dairy Cheddar (Wisconsin)
- Dante Sheep’s Milk Cheese, produced by Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Co-op (Wisconsin)
- Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk (California)
- Roelli Cheese Dunbarton Blue (Wisconsin)
When was the last time you learned something new? What did you learn, and how did it feel?